Socrates' opinion of death and the afterlife.

Essay by OpheliaDrowndCollege, UndergraduateA+, April 2003

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Socrates on Death

Now the hour to part has come. I go to die, you go to live. Which of us goes to the better lot is known to no one, except the god. (42a)

Fear of the unknown is a phobia inherent to the human psyche; we are often dually terrified and fascinated with that which we cannot explain or understand. Accordingly, death is the ultimate fear; a subject of which cannot be studied or observed first hand without lethal consequences, a topic on which no one can rightly claim to be an expert. Yet human beings, in our attempt to explain the inexplicable, have created innumerable belief systems, or religions, each with its own opinion on death and the proverbial afterlife. And furthermore, philosophy, a field built upon hypothesizing and questioning the human condition, does not broach the subject of death. Perhaps this disparity of standpoints, between religion and philosophy, may be used to examine the reasons behind contemporary fears of death?

In The Apology, Socrates refuses to adhere to the idea of death as an evil or punishment; for Socrates, death is less to be feared than committing an injustice.

Though Socrates claims to be ignorant of life after death, he does know that it is pernicious to corrupt ones soul by committing an injustice, and this, he pronounces, is the error of the Athenians. Gods alone hold the knowledge of justice, knowledge of what constitutes social and personal excellence; by sentencing Socrates to death for philosophizing, the citizens have taken justice, of which they actually know nothing, into their own hands. This of course, is the very pretext upon which Socrates criticizes his fellow citizens; their simulated wisdom and preoccupation with knowledge of information versus human wisdom.

Moreover, Socrates declares that "a good man cannot...